Monday, May 11, 2009

This way please

Planning again. Because that's where I am with my current story. I feel like I'm rediscovering how to do this after those few months off though the one constant has been my dithering over whether to just sit down and write or do the planning thing so I know in which dir

Three small ammonite fossils, each approximate...Image via Wikipedia

ection the words should point. The missus keeps saying that I am very quiet at the moment, more so than usual, and that's because I'm processing all the ways the current story can play out.

Re-reading, for the umpteenth time, Stephen King's On Writing I was struck by his belief that a story is a found object. A fossil, he says, that has to be uncovered piece by piece. For him plotting and planning are jackhammers that destroy the fine detail at the expense of the gross structure. Far better, for him, is to set the situation up and then work/write through it. Those are far finer tools that can preserve the eyelashes and scales. An idea of the ending is needed but he has little sense of what he will uncover on the way. Often, he says, he is surprised by how the characters act/react in the situation. I suspect he is being a bit disingenuous and that some of this is down to his vast experience and native talent. For others, such as Tobias Buckell, the same is likely to be true.

For myself I don't find it that easy to just turn it over to Trev and let him drive. Last year I did and it produced some great stuff. Certainly judging by sales and reader reaction I'm doing better but it took time to get in to that mindset. I've got to get it back, if I can, and I think the rest will follow.

Take the story I'm working on right now. Thinking about the setting has got me enthused about it and I know how it will, kind of, fall out. I am split between doing the planning and letting it all flow leaving me in a tricky neither/nor limbo when I do a bit of both. The stories that is producing do not have that breezy feel some of the others have though the story itself is fine. Or so I think.

What Mr S does think about is character. Annie Wilkes, for instance, he first describes as having an "absence of hiatus". No, I don't know either. And that's not something I've been doing a lot of. Partly because this latest story is kind of about me and a lost friend and I know those folks well enough to wing it.

Annie, in a rare depressing moment.Image via Wikipedia

I guess part of my reluctance to hand it to Trev is because I do not want to get in to a situation where whatever success I have is based on a method resistant to understanding, change and improvement. And that brings me to another of Mr King's beliefs; that talent is a finite quantity. Whatever you have, that's all you get. If you don't have it then you'll only ever be a hack. If you have some you can improve via technique but if you are talented then lucky you. I have no idea where I fit on that scale and my lack of confidence makes me eye the hack end more than the other. It's not for me to say. What I have realised is that that perception of talent will not be universal. For every person that likes a story there will be as many, probably more, that are utterly indifferent. As many will hate it as love it. Now there's a recipe for misery if ever I heard one.

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